With only one week left to go in the regular season, things are cooling off. Most of the important things are settled, and the rest will be resolved by Monday morning. We can rejoice in our playoff teams, and regret our good draft position for the others. Welcome back to the TSW NFL Power Rankings: Week Seventeen.
1: () Green Bay Packers (13-3)
The NFL’s lone leaders continue to do just that. The only team that actually looks like they deserve to win it all put the Vikings in the dirt as they clinched the league’s top spot. Will they take home the silverware? That much remains to be seen, as they have plenty of playoff ghosts to shed, but no-one looks as Green Bay good right now.
2: () Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
The L.A. Rams made a lot of mistakes against the Baltimore Ravens, most notably a foolish interception which became six to open the game, but when it mattered most they came through. An Odell Beckham Jr game-winner to walk it off was a poetic finish for a game that featured the best and worst of both these teams. Several playoff-bound teams had their warts exposed on Sunday, but the Rams can overcome them as well as anyone.
3: () Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
Already having witnessed one meltdown on Sunday, the Buccaneers narrowly avoided experiencing one of their own. Down 14 to the lowly New York Jets in the middle of the third quarter, they eventually turned it around. The defense had come out flat, but came through when they had to and the offense took advantage of their opportunities. A last minute drive found the end zone for the win, and a vintage Tom Brady moment graces our screen yet again. Shame it had to be against the Jets, though.
4: (2) Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Finally, the Cardinals get back in the win column. The former NFC frontrunners snapped their three-game skid just in time, against a fellow contender who they could really use a tiebreaker over. They did enough, winning their fourth down attempts and surviving a late surge from Dallas to get back in the race for their division.
5: (1) Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
Ouch. Dallas had been surging, and there were very few teams poised to stop them, but they tripped up on a Cardinals team that was, itself, stumbling. Their division may be secure, but giving up valuable seeding isn’t something they can afford to do. Losing Michael Gallup is significant, but this offense has enough weapons to mitigate the loss.
6: (1) Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Well, this wasn’t what we expected, with the Chiefs on such a hot streak, but it’s what we got. They shot themselves in the foot and it cost them the #1 seed, which might just haunt them when they playoff picture is finally made clear. We pointed out previously that they can win a shootout as much as they want, but they can’t win every shootout; This was an example of that. The secondary could be an issue in the playoffs, as expected.
7: () Buffalo Bills (10-6)
The Bills have clinched their playoff spot, and it was on the back of their run game. That’s right. Of all things, the Buffalo run game came to life, supplementing an unsuccessful pass attack in cold, wet conditions that have plagued the Northern franchises for an unfortunate number of Sunday’s this season. Allen threw a worrisome three picks in arguably his worst game (as a passer) since early in 2019 but, due to the sheer volume of the offense, they still blew out the Falcons.
8: (1) Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
L.A. bounced back in style, throwing up 33 points on a highly-capable Broncos defense after two tough losses derailed their postseason dreams. A hot start led to a solid finish, as they showed us just how capable they are, even if it’s not every Sunday. Now, the Chargers find themselves in a win-and-in scenario against the Raiders on Sunday Night Football- The season really comes down to the last moment of the final game.
9: (4) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Alright, maybe we should have given them more credit after the clinic they put on last week. They didn’t do anything more impressive this week, mind you, but they did do it twice. The Burrow-Chase connection has become something incredible, as these two develop into superstars right before our eyes, and their systematic demolition of the Kansas City secondary provides further blueprints on how to topple the AFC’s best teams when the playoffs roll around.
10: () New England Patriots (10-6)
Mac Jones put out some positive numbers against the Jaguars, and his team kept pace with an exciting AFC playoff race. The Patriots do a lot of things well, and it was all on display against the Jaguars. They locked up a postseason spot, and kept their hopes of winning the division alive, but they’ll need some help from the New York Jets, and a win against the now-eliminated Miami Dolphins.
11: () Tennessee Titans (11-5)
Perhaps we’ve been harsh to the Titans, too? They sit comfortably atop their division after handing out a savage beating to one of the AFC’s playoff contenders and, with the late collapse of the Chiefs, they took the top seed in the conference. All they have to do is win next week and they’ll find themselves nursing their depleted roster back to health during a cozy bye week.
12: () San Francisco 49ers (9-7)
The 49ers looked about as good with Trey Lance as they did with Jimmy G and, regardless of where they finish the season, they’ll be answering that particular question come March. For now, they got the win they needed and they’re a half game away from snapping up the last Wild Card spot in a turbulent NFC. Their postseason prospects are putrid, but they’ve got enough in the tank to trip up capable contenders.
13: (5) Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
It seems the Colts are capable of both great and terrible things, as they squander an excellent opportunity and make their lives much more difficult as the final week of the year looms over them. Carson Wentz has proven to be a weak point; Sometimes he’s good enough to lift them past the most powerful foes they could face, and sometimes he costs them a game against even the worst of the league. This time, it was the latter.
14: (2) Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
The Raiders have pillaged yet another village, and the Colts have a crucial win stolen from them. Vegas thrust themselves back into the playoff race to high-step over their opponents, and it’s remarkable to think they’ve made it so far, considering all they’ve gone through this season. Though at times rudderless, Vegas has done an incredible job, and Derek Carr deserves a lot of credit for his leadership. One more week to go.
15: (1) Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
With Lamar Jackson still sidelined, Tyler Huntley re-emerged, and nearly pulled out another one. Their defense did some damage to one of the league’s most prolific scoring units, but fell just short when it mattered most. Suddenly, calls for the heads of the Ravens’ coaching staff are being heralded, but do they have merit? No.
16: (1) New Orleans Saints (8-8)
The Saints are 8-8, and alive, going into the final week of the season. Their journey so far has been tough, and they should be extremely proud of what they’ve achieved un until this point. But, a year that has been plagued by injuries and misfortune could still end in glory. They need help, but a win against the Falcons and a 49ers loss to the Rams would see them escorted into the postseason. Wouldn’t that be something?
17: (4) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
The Eagles have clinched a playoff spot, and their streaky offense looked consistent this time around. They started out slow, but ramped up to a photo-finish win over their division-rival WFT to take the driver’s seat in the Wild Card race. Well, maybe not a driver’s seat, but at least a seat that gives them room to breathe; A rare commodity in the NFL.
18: (1) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1)
The last Monday Night Football game of the regular season was anything but, as the Steelers bid a home-crowd farewell to one of the best quarterbacks in the history of their storied franchise. An oft-controversial figure, Roethlisberger was still a quality QB for almost his entire career, and stepping away from the game was a hard thing to do. Outside of that touching tribute and goodbye, Pittsburgh looked like garbage and, though their pass-rush is absolutely terrifying, it wasn’t enough to get them into the postseason. They have a massive long shot to make it, but don’t hold your breath.
19: (1) Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Consider these fish squished. Their souls escaped their bodies as Tennessee put the heat on them, and now they are out of a playoff spot, out of good draft position, and in need of some hope. Their young potential franchise QB didn’t provide any. They may be broken-hearted, but there’s still a lot on his team to be excited about, if they can just make a few moves in the offseason (unlike last year).
20: (3) Seattle Seahawks (6-10)
The Seahawks offense is back. Way too late, of course, but we all knew what they were capable of. The offseason is going to be ugly, and it has to get worse before it gets better, but this game serves as an excellent reminder of just how good Wilson is when he’s hot. Still, we’ll be surprised if he’s still in Seattle by September.
21: (2) Cleveland Browns (7-9)
The Browns played one of the worst games they’ve had all year, and it’s been an unbelievably disappointing season. Baker Mayfield took just one season to go from potential franchisee to a massive offseason problem for the team, and it makes their prospects that much harder to gauge. Do they bring him back on a contract now, and believe in turning him around? Do they let him play his fifth-year option, and risk losing him in free agency if he bounces back? If they do levy a contract at him, what will it look like? The precedent is expensive.
22: (2) Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
If Mike Zimmer still has his job next week, we’ll be stunned. No-one has fumbled such an overwhelming stock of talent quite like Zimmer did, but frankly there was nothing he could do in this one. Down their starting QB in need of a win to stay alive in a dwindling playoff race, the Vikings didn’t stand a chance.
23: (1) Washington Football Team (6-10)
With that, Washington fall into the race for better draft picks. They were a QB away from being good, and a few other pieces away from being great, but weren’t they fun to watch? We’ll be sure to see more of them next season, as one of the few teams that actually seems to improve in a bewildering NFC East.
24: () Denver Broncos (7-9)
Denver’s up-and-down season is well over, and getting blown out by the Chargers with another week to go in the season wasn’t how they envisioned things after their hot start. The football they played wasn’t complimentary, and though they had their chances, we’re all disappointed. To make matters more complicated, Drew Lock looked good. Their questions just get harder to answer.
25: () Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
The secondary put on a show, but there was very little else working for Atlanta on a cold, sad day in Western New York. Matt Ryan drew an uncharacteristic unsportsmanlike unconduct unpenalty, which took them from third-and-goal on the one-yard line back to the 16, eventually costing them a touchdown, but the result came largely from the fact that they were overpowered. Unable to stop the Bills offense, they didn’t have the opportunity to catch up when it came down to it.
26: (2) Chicago Bears (6-10)
The Bears have some real talent on the team, but not nearly enough of it to have made this season worthwhile. They have to make a lot of moves in 2022, and it starts with committing to a QB, finding a coach that can make an offense around him, and giving him a year or two to prove he can build this team the right way.
27: (1) Carolina Panthers (5-11)
The Panthers lethargic and mismanaged offense, contrasted by their inexplicably excellent defense, could still have been a recipe for success. How many times have we seen an ineffective offense carried by a shutdown secondary? The problem is that the offense isn’t bad, it’s straight-up detrimental to this team. Saddled with Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option, they don’t have as much room as they might need to make it work in 2022.
28: (1) Houston Texans (4-12)
There is very little certainty in Houston right now, but one question is easy to answer: Davis Mills will be on this roster in 2022. Sure, they got beaten up by the 49ers, but they might have something at QB, and the better their draft picks, the better chance they have of actually doing something with it next year.
29: () New York Jets (4-12)
Perhaps the Jets had a little fight in them to close the season, but it’s all far too little, too late. Zach Wilson has given us plenty to look at, some of it even good, but this team’s troubles go infinitely deeper than the QB position. With Saleh’s first season under wraps, we get to find out exactly how capable he is of building a team.
30: (1) Detroit Lions (2-13-1)
How good is Amon-Ra St. Brown? No, really. He’s proven to be a staple on this offense as a rookie and, with an exciting offseason in the works for Detroit, we could expect better next season. We don’t know what’s in store for the Lions, but we can’t help but root for these underdogs. With the loss, they’re in the running for the #1 overall pick, though still sitting second fiddle.
31: (1) New York Giants (4-12)
The Giants threw for a grand total of -10 yards on Sunday. Did you want more analysis? Did you expect me to feel like digging deeper than that? They have a lot of issues, and though they had a great offseason last year they need to back it up with a repeat performance if they intend to come out swinging in 2022.
32: () Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
The Jaguars deserve to be on the bottom of this list. If you don’t see why, or you disagree in any way whatsoever, come find me on Twitter. I’ll ignore you though, because anyone who argues that Jacksonville is somehow better than any other team on this list is probably not someone I’d think was worth arguing with.
Don’t forget to check out last week, and come back next time to see how another week of NFL action changes the board.